The Portland Trail Blazers lost a winnable game to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, 113-106, that saw high effort but sloppy play. This brings their season record to 19-18, leaving them in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference standings.
The team is trying to distinguish itself as a member of the upper echelon in the West but has struggled to do so as other teams begin to create separation. What is the current problem? Star guard Damian Lillard told reporters after the game that consistency has been Portland’s biggest issue.
I think it’s a little bit of everything, you know. A little bit of youth, a little bit of, you know, just, we don’t have a lot of experience as a whole. We constantly plugging guys in, guys out, guys in. But I think the No. 1 thing is just it’s not easy to win in this league. It’s a lot of talented guys, there’s a lot of talented players on every team or they wouldn’t be here. We got a lot of talented players, but the hardest thing to do in this league is to have it every night. Not just, you know, having your body ready and the energy, but, you know, your mind has to be into it. You got to care, you got to have pride, you got to be sharp and locked into the scouting report and know how the game is going to be won outside of just bringing your ability to the table. And I think, you know, where we are as a team, we just haven’t decided who we’re going to be all the time. The only way to decide that is by, you know, doing all the things to give yourself a chance to be there mentally, be prepared, and just to physically do everything in your power to be able to put your best on the floor, and I just think we haven’t been able to be consistent at those things. And, like, I said, it’s showing in our ups and downs.
The Trail Blazers’ ups and downs of late have included wins against the relatively talent-insolvent (Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons) and losses against other teams that occupy the NBA middle ground (Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves).
If Portland is going to achieve its goals, it needs to start winning games against good teams. As Lillard says, the league is full of them.